Most people think of Ontario and immediately see CN Tower... and that's pretty much it. Most people don't know that there is more to Ontario than just Niagara Falls and Canada's Wonderland. The truth is, there is a multitude of secret sightseeing spots in our beautiful province, especially during fall!
If you love nature, castles, animals, history and cottage country, you've come to the right place. Ontario is crawling with interesting spots to eat food, stargaze, sightsee and take dreamy IG pics... you don't have to travel to Italy to gaze upon marvellous architecture or Poland to wander around spectacular gardens (but that would be nice too).
Here are some dreamy spots around Ontario you'll want to discover this fall:
Torrance Barrens Dark-Sky Preserve
For most people, the beauty of the Northern Lights aren't easily accessible, especially if you don't live in the Yukon. However, that shouldn't stop you because Aurora Borealis might be one of earh's most beautiful wonders, and it's a sight that's on many traveller's bucket lists.
Luckily, you can easily stargaze just 2.5 hours from Toronto, near Gravenhurst at the Torrance Barrens Dark-Sky Preserve. Their conservation reserve is a large area of land that is regulated under the Public Lands Act by the Ministry of Natural Resources, to protect earth's natural and beautiful features. Because of this, many eager tourists and locals alike come to this secluded destination to stargaze and catch the amazing aurora borealis.
Winter Garden Theatre
The Winter Garden Theatre is a botanically-themed auditorium that blooms within the world's LAST operating double-decker theatre. Talk about charming! In this theatre, beautiful leafy plants and flowers gracefully spiral downstairs, virtually blanketing the entire theatre ceiling with vibrant petals and flora. Nature scenes decorate the walls of this large two-tier space, making you feel like you've stepped inside an enchanting dream.
This theatre was designed to bring the outside in, so the walls are beautifully hand-painted with murals of plants, trellises, and flowers. This space truly looks like a whimsical fantasy, especially with playful lantern lighting and the original theatre columns that now resemble tree trunks. The stage itself is made to look like the blue sky, complete with clouds and a giant, illuminated moon.
The Millcroft Inn and Spa
This relaxing getaway is the perfect destination for some alone-time this fall. The Millcroft Inn and Spa is located in Alton, Ontario and encompasses full outdoot hot springs, steam rooms, saunas, firepits and a luxurious indoor swimming pool. Perfect getaway for you and bae!
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
This secret spot has some of the most seriously breathtaking #views in Ontario. Located in Thunder Bay, this provincial park has a plethora of fun outdoor activities for you and some of the most important people in your life to experience. You can go camping, biking, hiking beautiful fall trails, canoeing, fishing and so much more! If you're an animal lover, you'll love some of the wildlife at this park-- moose, birds and even wolves have been spotted in these areas.
Barron Canyon, Algonquin Provincial Park
This provincial park is a 1.5km loop trail that leads along the northern rim of the 100-metre deep Barron Canyon. This adventurous trail will lead you to a very high point and unfenced cliff which could be extremely dangerous, so be cautious! At this park, you can visit High Falls, the Water Slide as well as the Barron Canyon. There's no "right way" to plan this trip, because all areas of this park are enormously picturesque.
The water slide is located on the channel of the Barron River that flows from Stratton Lake into High Falls Lake, you can visit the slide by canoe, the Eastern Pines Hiking Trail from Achray or via the High Falls Trail from the Barron Canyon Road.
To reach High Falls Lake located on the channel of the Barron River that flows from Stratton Lake to High Falls Lake (about 100m downstream from water slide), High Falls may be viewed from the top by approaching from the water slide, or from the bottom by approaching from High Falls Lake.
Jumbo The Elephant
There is a statue of a cute and giant elephant in Ontario and the backstory is quite sad and needs to be heard. First off, the statue of the famous elephant was the original source of the word jumbo. Back in 1885, Jumbo the Elephant was brought to St. Thomas, Ontario by the Barnum & Bailey Circus. One night after the show while Jumbo was being brought back into the train, the adorable elephant was struck by an unexpected freight train that sped down the tracks and was tragically killed.
100 years after Jumbo's death, stands a life-size concrete statue in commemoration of this giant elephant, probably the most renowned circus animal of all time. This lovable animal was a huge attraction to St. Thomas even in his earlier days, after being bought from the London Zoo and making appearances in Paris and London.
This gentle giant was a lover of children and if you're an animal lover, his monument is definitely worth seeing.
This quarry might actually be one of the most beautiful destinations in all of Ontario. The water is swimmable and this spot will be even more gorgeous during the fall months. Situated in the charming town of Elora, home to the Elora Gorge, you can swim, camp, raft, zipline, go to a spa and pretty much enjoy all the outdoorsy activities fall has to offer, PSL in hand.
Katherin's Cove is a hidden gem and super fun park inside Lake Superior Provincial Park. It has crystal clear waters, beachy sand and enchanting forest areas which will turn bright colours of red, orange and yellow in the fall. This is the perfect day trip for a little swim and fall picnic!
If you haven't explored Flowerpot Island near Georgian Bay yet, you have to see it in person this fall. Seriously, you won't believe this gorgeous place is located in Ontario on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by aqua blue waters. Flowerpot Island is only accessible via boat ride, which adds to the intrigue!
Other than gorgeous beaches and the prettiest waters I've seen in Ontario, Flowerpot Island is full of hiking trails (great for fall!), campsites (s'mores!), and stunning earthy views (IG pic, anyone?).
This spot in Caledon highlights all of earth's natural beauties by leading you up to a sweeping lookout point, giving you remarkable nature views. The Cheltenham Badlands are also conveniently located beside Ontario's popular Bruce Trail, which makes for an awesome and event-filled day trip with your friends, family or SO. If you guys are hikers, you'll love this spot about an hour from Toronto!
Red Rock Falls, Thunder Bay
There are many hidden gems just waiting to reward fellow hikers and travellers who are willing to go a little off the beaten paths. This waterfall is certainly powerful and daring, especially because this travel destination isn't the easiest to travel to! Most people who travel to Red Rock Falls take their pickup trucks, SUV's or Wrangler's because although there is road access, the condition of these roads aren't the most spotless.
Red Rock Falls isn't near the town of Red Rock, but is situated by Wolf River just north of Dorion, and the beautiful private beach of Middlebrun Bay in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
Rattlesnake Point is the perfect fall day trip touring Ontario as you can spend the day admiring wild turkey vultures soaring through the slopes (seriously, what's more fall that turkey?) and admire the changing leaves on their massive cedar trees. You can not only hike or camp, but also rockclimb and do some yoga with the fam in the middle of the great outdoors.
Pumpkinferno is a spectacular and completely crazy fall experience that will make you feel like you're touring the 1860's. This event is a showcasing of over 7000 handcrafted glowing pumpkins that light up at night along a long village path with a 19th-century backdrop. It's truly mesmerizing to see this giant installation of glowing orange pumpkins all stacked together, waiting to be admired and photographed. This magnificent event is not to be missed this fall.
This event runs from September 28 until October 28. For specific dates and times where this event will be held, click here.
Discover New Castles At Heart Island
Heart Island looks like a stunning castle on a secluded island out of a Disney movie. It's like an escape from reality (the city) when you set foot on this unique island, touring wonderful castles and magical lakes. You can discover Heart Island right on the US side of the border by Alexandria Bay in New York. The grand and German-inspired Boldt Castle is a super enjoyable castle on the island which will make you feel like you're touring something straight out of Harry Potter.
Visit A Crazy Doll House In Leslieville
This crazy and slightly creepy spot seems fitting for the breezy fall months. This "garden" collects stares from just about every tourist, passersby and local that walks by. Leslieville is a quiet neighbourhood on the edge of Lake Ontario with quaint single-family homes that once housed the local labour force. If you can imagine, these houses usually display well-tended gardens filled with plants and flowers alike, but there is one particular garden that's tended a little out of the ordinary.
Instead of hydrangeas, the gardener of 37 Bertmount Ave. plants dolls, toys, mermaids, Hello Kitties, Barbies and Superheroes in the property. This bizarre house is called the Doll House and apparently the owner has been collecting these stuffed dolls and plastic creatures for over 20 years!
Visit The Eerie Screaming Tunnel
Legend says that this short Canadian tunnel still holds the dying screams of a girl who burned alive. This tunnel in Ontario is known as the Screaming Tunnel or the Blue Ghost Tunnel and was created in the 1900s as a drainage passage. It allowed local farmers a convenient path to take to avoid oncoming trains... so then why is this place so damn spooky?!
Apparently, a farm near this tunnel caught fire one night and a screaming girl was seen shrieking while her clothes ablaze, into the tunnel. She died in the middle of the tunnel and if that's not disturbing and eerie enough for modern audiences, another version of this shrieking tunnel story was that a young girl was burned alive by her raging father. Many history-loving tourists and locals who enjoy spooks usually come to this spot to snap some pics and visit the shrieking tunnel.
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Toronto
The impressive BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is a Hindu Temple located in Toronto but it actually looks like a smaller version of the Taj Mahal. This temple is an architectural marvel designed based off of traditional and ancient Indian architecture. This structure is Canada's first hand-carved temple made entirely of limestone and marble. It's meant to evoke an almost mystical beauty whilst representing the essence of India!
The temple is a meditation zone, requiring visitors to maintain silence. Several daily rituals take place in the mandir, which visitors are welcome to attend. Visitors are welcome to the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir from 9am until 630pm daily, but the visitors must abide by their dress code (shorts, skirts, sleeveless tops are not allowed and you must remove shoes before entering).
Yes- these spectacular temples, historically-rich monuments, dreamy spas, creepy tunnels and even bizarre yet cool gardens all exist in Ontario! The destinations listed in this article are ideal for the colder months when Halloween and Thanksgiving approaches. These secrets spots are sure to give everyone a one-of-a-kind seasonal experience.